- The Highlanders have slumped to their fourth defeat of the Super Rugby season.
The Highlanders are in the mire - the wooden spoon battle is now officially on.
The side lost 38-13 to the Bulls in Pretoria this morning and with the loss now find themselves well and truly in the dog box.
Everyone knew it was going to be a difficult season for the Highlanders - losing a dozen top players and only able to bring in some promising talent.
But good players do not grow on trees anymore in New Zealand and the Highlanders have some holes which are - short term - going to be difficult to fill.
The worry for the side is the basics which is letting it down as it fell apart in the second half against a Bulls team which had yet to win a game this season.
The Highlanders led 10-5 at the break but it had a second half which would rank as one of the worst in the side's recent history.
The set piece lost all structure and too many tackles were missed as it failed to impose itself.
The side's worst black mark though was the inept and woeful kicking effort right throughout the 80 minutes.
Aaron Smith was the worst offender. His box kicks just turned the ball over and the Highlanders chasers offered nothing in terms of challenging the Bulls players. Having the ball is the first prerequisite in scoring points but the Highlanders did not seem to understand that.
There were just way too many poor kicking options. Against a Bulls team low on confidence it would have been better to keep the ball in hand but too often the kick became the default option.
The Highlanders had dominated the first half and needed to come away from the opening 40 minutes with more than the one try, scored by Josh Ioane.
Flanker Dillon Hunt lost the ball when trying to slip the last defender just past the quarter hour mark while Smith tried a quick tap from 5m out but only succeeded in going into touch.
The Bulls were average in the first half but were a different side in the second half as the Highlanders wilted at altitude.
Winger Rosko Specman scored a hat trick of tries in the second half, given too much room by the Highlanders defence.
Bulls 38 (Rosko Specman 3, Jaco Visage, Warrick Gellant, Cornal Hendricks tries; Manie Lobbick 3 con, Morne Steyn con)
Highlanders 13 (Josh Ioane try, 2 pen, con)